Nannette Rundle Carroll on Crisis Communication

The following is a guest post by Nannette Rundle Carroll, author of The Communication Problem Solver.

Let’s Talk Turkey

The project didn’t go as planned. There’s a crisis to recuperate from. Now what? Let’s save time and cut to the chase.

Communication is at the core of all project success. Since you are in “recuperate mode,” begin with a frank “Communication Assessment Checklist” below.

Encourage everyone to give an honest opinion. The goal is to save the project as quickly as possible by getting everybody on the same page. Speak up and be heard.

Communication Assessment Checklist:

1. RESTATE EXPECTATIONS

Managing communication includes stating clear project purpose, deliverables and expectations—including level of authority teammates will exercise. But stating expectations is not enough. It is equally important to discuss the meaning of the expectations to ensure common understanding.

Immense pressure on project leaders and teammates to achieve quality results, manage timelines, change directions, and work virtually can lead to assumptions and misunderstandings. So first assess how the team will restate and communicate expectations:

• How will we redefine common goals?
• What will we do to ensure understanding of goals and process?
• How will we educate people on the rationale and expected benefits?
• What will we do to gain commitment?
• How will we communicate the expectations?
• What specifically will we do to ensure that expectations are understood the way we intend them?
• Whose input needs to be included to decide if the new expectations are realistic?
• How will we invite disagreements upfront?
• What questions will we ask to uncover obstacles and potential problems?

2. STRENGTHEN OR REBUILD RELATIONSHIPS

Relationships and partnerships drive the process and build commitment to get things done. They are critical to project success.

• How can we add more interpersonal communication (including phone or video-conferencing) instead of mostly email?
• What must we learn about other contributors’ goals and priorities? Who are their stakeholders? How does this impact their ability or willingness to work on our project?
• What repairs to relationships need to be done and who will do them?
• Who do we need to take time to talk with to clean up miscommunications or repair “dinged” relationships?
• How will we overcome relationship obstacles that cannot be bridged?

3. UPGRADE FEEDBACK

Feedback given and sought regularly will help keep projects on track.
Pressure can lead professionals to lean heavily on project management tools instead of on interpersonal communication. But using technology does not mean that complete communication is taking place. Project leaders also need to talk to their team regularly and collaboratively. Team members have the same responsibility to initiate status conversations.

• If your team is Agile, are you are having stand-up meetings every day (by phone if virtual)?
• How regularly should we seek and give feedback? How can we make it project specific?
• Can we all agree to give feedback immediately if part of the project is going off track? If we notice a problem or red flag? To vent frustrations that may prevent or uncover a problem?
• When will we have regular conversational checkpoints? Weekly?

This simple checklist provides ample information to “reboot” projects. For more communication tools, see The Communication Problem Solver.

Nannette Rundle Carroll is a popular speaker, management trainer, and communications consultant. She is also a top-rated faculty member with the American Management Association and author of The Communication Problem Solver.

To cap off our Project Management Problem Solving theme week, we’re giving away a copy of Project Management That Works to the first five commenters on the blog!

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9 responses to “Nannette Rundle Carroll on Crisis Communication

  1. I also found that a good word goes a long way. Most of the time, giving good feedback and a pat on the back means more than money or lunch (even though those are always nice).

  2. Thanks for the checklist. I look forward to reading the entire text.

  3. What an awesome checklist and I can’t wait to read the book. “Communicate the expectations” … what a simple task that is seldom done. Thanks and good luck …

  4. Great checklist and even greater book! I love the specifics with regard to relationship-building, as so many problems can arise during e-mails. EVERYONE needs this book! Thank you for writing it!

  5. This is such a practical book, filled with sound advice and action items to really improve communications in the workplace. I highly recommend it!

  6. I see this as also very useful in non-work situations, like families or other groups. Thanks for providing this.

  7. What a helpful and inspiring checklist!

  8. R Johnson from New York

    The checklist is an example of the practical approach that ‘The Communication Problem Solver’ offers. It’s a great read that details communication tools/advice applicable to both your professional and personal life.

  9. Thank you all for your kind words. One manager emailed me that he printed out the Checklist and posted it on the bulletin board at his company. How exciting to see how useful the checklist and “The Communication Problem Solver” book is to you. I appreciate your comments–nice to hear from all of you.

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